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Mating Hare behaviour: 6 male vs 1 female

With fur and limbs flying everywhere, six male hare fight each other and chase just a single female before finally, exhausted, she stops long enough for the males to attempt to mate with her – whilst at all times being constantly attacked by the remaining males! Sometimes the animal kingdom can be a harsh place.

Back at the start of the year I spent a week on the Island of Texel, Holland. It was early in the season for boxing hare but they were already starting to do so. The day before we flew home, it was cold, wet, foggy and a generally miserable morning outside. We were scouting our usual haunt for the Hare when out of nowhere all hell broke loose! Ten or so sprang seemingly out of thin air full on fighting and chasing each other all over the place. We sat in our car and watched as they fought through the fields to our left, through a wire fence in to a farmers garden and back out, fur getting caught in the wire as they did so. They then jumped the ditches either side of the road to cross over to the fields on our right hand side. The action mostly took place too far out to photograph but we could see limbs and fur flying constantly and it seemed there was one female and the rest were male, all looking for a chance to mate. As the action spread through the fields some of the hare backed off, before eventually the action settled in to an area still to far out to photograph properly, but close enough in that a 50% crop would give some idea of what was going on.

D3, 600 + 1.4x, 1/640, f5.6, ISO 1400

By this point there were six remaining males although four of them seemed the more dominate with two dropping back to watch, having been boxed one time too many. The light was very flat but it was a great (if slightly barbaric?) sight to see and with a bit of contrast boost in Photoshop I managed to get a couple of images to illustrate the behaviour as we witnessed it.

Fur flies as the male hare box for the right to mate

At one point, there were three trying to mate with the female at one time. There is actually a third male in the image below, sandwiched down under the two more obvious male hare.

Three watch as three attempt to mate at once

The images don’t fully convey the frantic pace and sheer force of the scene although they are a reminder of just how brutal the animal kingdom can be! And despite the images not being technically perfect, this is the type of ‘real’ wildlife photography that I enjoy the most. Don’t get me wrong I’m always happy to get a technically perfect shot of a subject perched or sitting around, but sometimes it’s great to witness some real wild behaviour, and getting a record of it can just be an added bonus.

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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